Helping teens develop a healthy relationship with time management

With advanced courses, dual credit classes, sports, volunteer work, part time jobs, and chores, some teens are managing schedules comparable to those of their parents.  In addition, the stress and workload of the average school day rarely ends when the last bell rings. Many teens race from the high school parking lot to an extracurricular activity.  I have personally witnessed kids exiting our high school at a blistering pace. While this is partly a function of avoiding gridlock at the parking lot exit, I know this is also due to extremely tight schedules.  After practice, if they do not have a performance or a game, teens head home for a long night of homework. If their sport or activity requires morning practice, they will leave the house before dawn to practice prior to the school day.


Some adolescents have found a manageable balance of commitments.  For others, they are over scheduled, exhausted, and anxious. For all teens, they are navigating uncharted territories where they will have to make choices and prioritize obligations. Where is the balance and how can we help our teens prioritize their responsibilities as well as identify when they are overscheduled and set limits?


Have realistic expectations.  Is it realistic for an entering freshman to manage a full caseload of advanced classes, a school and club sport, involvement in religious activities, volunteering and a part time work?  In most cases, it is crucial for parents to help teens identify priorities and make choices among them.


Involve your teen in the decision making and information gathering process.  If your teen is interested in an advanced course or new club, have them talk to the instructor or peers already enrolled in the activity.  Asking questions about homework or time requirements can yield valuable information to aid in decisions. As the parent of a freshman, reaching out to more experienced parents of upperclassmen has been invaluable in my own information gathering process.


Periodically assess the activity.  Does the teen truly enjoy the activity?  Is it worth the time commitment? As children grow, interests and talents may change.  While a particular activity may have been a good fit in elementary and middle school, high school may hold different options for a teen’s valuable time.  What once was a focus of afterschool and weekend hours, may become a leisure time pursuit.


Encourage self advocacy.  Learning to be our own advocate is a lifelong process.  When we help our teens to set limits, say no, and advocate for themselves, we are empowering them to manage their own time and recognize when they are overscheduled.


According to developmental psychology, the period of adolescence is when we develop a sense of who we are.  It is a time to try novel things and gain new experiences. Vandegrift High School offers 44 student let clubs, 20 student organizations, 8 sports, and 4 fine art activities.  In addition, we are fortunate to have a dual credit program and approximately 30 advanced placement class to choose from. Yep. In the “new experiences” department, we have many to choose from!


High school is a time to explore these options and experiences.  Our task as parents is to raise balanced individuals that are not merely measured by their class rank or the number of extracurricular activities they participate in, but by the whole person they are becoming.  And, hopefully, that is a person who is comfortable saying “no” and setting limits with their valuable time.


Shelley Coleman MA, LPC-S

Shelley Coleman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor in Lakeway.  She provides play therapy, child and adolescent counseling, family therapy, and parent education.

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